Madison Chock and Evan Bates were the surprise victors in the ice dance event at Four Continents on Sunday afternoon. Chock and Bates were electric in their “Fever” themed routine, setting the audience on fire with a flirtatious tête-à-tête that brought the crowd to it’s feet. The duo missed just one Level — Chock earned a Level 3 on the one-foot step sequence. Otherwise the routine was near perfection, earning Level 4s and strong grades of execution. The team earned 207.42 points in total.
“It feels incredible,” Chock said. “We didn’t set any expectations as far as placement because that’s not why we are skating. We have this new found joy and happiness when we are skating and we want to share that and that is our main goal this season.”
“It’s been a whirlwind of five weeks or so since we’ve come back to the competitive scene,” Bates added. “The amount of work that went into (Chock’s) recovery and the amount that we’ve put in to come back and make a strong impact with our skating and making a noticeable change is a lot. It feels really good after the emotional high of nationals. It was difficult to come here and compete with teams of this caliber. We were a bit nervous and we had to work for it today, but we’re really pleased with what we did.”
Finishing in second place were Canadian champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who performed their “S.O.S. d’un terrien en detresse” program in dedication to Denis Ten.
Weaver and Poje took a more solemn approach to their routine, keeping in character with memorializing the 2014 Olympic medalist. They earned Level 4s on all but two elements, and finished the competition with a season’s best score of 203.93.
“It is a very emotional piece. It was the last program that (Ten) performed. He was a very dear friend of ours so every time this music plays we think of him,” Weaver explained. “It is a great inspiration because he was not only an amazing skater but an amazing person. We just hope to give our best to him through this. We are feeling very positive about what we can bring back from this competition.”
Poje added that as this was their first international competition (this season) they are “just trying to get the feel for that again. Our goal is really for Worlds and this is just a test to put the technical components out there and get the feedback we need so we are prepared for the World Championships.”
Another Canadian team, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, completed the podium with a stirring routine to Don MacLean’s “Vincent.” Gilles and Poirier ranked second in the free dance, but could not overcome their teammates and finished third with 202.45 points.
Inspired van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” Gilles and Poirier crafted a masterpiece of their own. The program was technically solid — all but two elements were judged a Level 4, but the storytelling took the program to a completely different level where sport became art.
“We’re very happy with what we put out there today,” Gilles said. “Every time we perform this program it feels a different emotion. We loved what it felt at nationals, today it felt hard but it still created that magic. It’s nice to know that whatever our body and emotions bring to the table that day we can perform it.”
“I think we are all looking for programs that can win us points and win us competitions, but is also something that can touch people and reach them in an effective way,” Poirier explained. “I think that’s what we strive to do every season, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t really connect with people for whatever reason. Every year feels kind of like you are jumping off of a cliff, and this season is just like that. As we’ve performed this program time and time again, we’ve found that it has really resonated with people. And that’s made it a pleasure for us to perform every time.”
Hubbell and Donohue suffered their first defeat of the season, plummeting to fourth place with 201.66 points overall, which dashed their hopes for a perfect season. The duo took themselves out of contention with the opening stationary lift, which the judges deemed traveled too much and was downgraded to a basic level. They also earned just Level 2 for their spin.
“There are not too many times when you feel so strong after a performance. We felt like we really left everything out there,” Hubbell said. “It’s a lift that we’ve done over and over again this season — they saw it all week in practice, so it was definitely shocking to hear that they did not count it as a stationary lift. It’s certainly unfortunate. We would have loved to be standing on top of that podium, but we’re incredibly proud of our performance and that mark doesn’t change that.
“Certainly, we would rather it happens here than the Worlds, so maybe it’s a good wake-up call to make sure that everything is good for Worlds.”
“We’ve got the right recipe,” Donohue said. “We’ve got fantastic programs—some of the best in the world. There’s no need to go back and change anything. The only thing is that we need to go back and double check what we already know to make sure that there isn’t even an ounce of doubt in anyone’s mind that’s watching.”
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean Luc Baker of the U.S. placed fifth with 189.87 points, ahead of Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen, who finished sixth with 186.91 points.
RHYTHM DANCE REPORT
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took the lead in the rhythm dance despite a rough performance, but have several teams nipping at their blades. The Grand Prix Final champions failed to earn the highest levels on three elements, including both Tango Romantica patterns. However, Hubbell and Donohue capitalized on the program component scores in their Piazzolla Tango, perhaps enhanced by their steamy presentation style. They earned a season’s best score of 81.95 points.
“We’re very pleased. I think we’ve been putting so much work this season, and we’ve improved so much, and it’s testament to that,” Hubbell said. “It wasn’t our best performance. I especially was quite shaky, had a lot of stumbles here and there, but we were able to show exactly how hard we’ve been working and still obtain our season’s best score, even though it wasn’t technically very strong. But overall we are very happy with where we’re standing.”
Training mates Madison Chock and Evan Bates trail Hubbell and Donohue by less than a point. Unlike the leaders, Chock and Bates capitalized on the technical element score, earning the highest of the day. And while Hubbell and Donohue struggled with their levels, this team walked away with Level 4s for every element other than a Level 3 earned on the second Tango Romantica pattern.
Despite having limited time to prepare for this season, Chock and Bates are performing better than ever. The duo earned 81.17 points for their Flamenco/Tango program, one of the highest scores of their partnership. The couple has made great strides in connecting with each other and with the appreciative audience.
“It was very fun to skate out there today and the crowd was very receptive to our performance and we just had a really good time; it went by so quickly,” Chock said. “Our coaches have done a very good job of preparing us. We’ve never done such an intense competition schedule, especially coming back after ten months off, but we feel more prepared than ever. We’re very comfortable with our programs and we have a lot of fun every time we skate them.”
Canada’s Kaitlin Weaver and Andrew Poje finished in a close third with 80.56 points, setting up an exciting battle for the free dance. Weaver and Poje took a different approach to their “Libertango” program, opting for something a bit more sleek and introspective than most of the other teams. Overall, however, the duo was pleased with their performance, even if it was not their best.
“We definitely have things we want to move forward on, but we’re looking forward to putting out another good performance with the free dance,” said Poje.
The second Canadian team in the final flight, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, finished in fourth place with 78.05 points, and teammates Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen finished in fifth with 73.30 points.